UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations said here Thursday that more than 2.5 million people are "in great need " of humanitarian assistance and protection inside Syria, and their "most pressing need" is water, sanitation, food, shelter, blankets and health care.
The statement came as UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson was briefing the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, which has been plunged into a political crisis since March 2011.
"More than two and a half million people, including the refugees from Palestine and Iraq, are now in great need of the assistance and protection inside Syria," Eliasson said. "This is more than double the number (UN) Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos reported to you in March."
"The most pressing needs include water and sanitation, food and shelter, blankets and health care," he said. "Less than half of primary health care facilities and hospitals are now fully functional in Syria."
The Syrian government and armed opposition have been locked into a prolonged conflict, which further worsened the humanitarian situation in the Middle East country.
"The destruction of pharmaceutical plants and storage facilities is making drugs and equipment scarce," he said. "At the same time, the number of people in need of medical care increases."
"Access to health facilities has become difficult or impossible in some areas due to violence, check points and fuel shortages," he said. "Food prices have tripled in some areas."
"A great number of Syrians are internally displaced and are being supported by family or friends," he said. "More than 1.2 million others have sought refuge in public buildings, such as schools and mosques, which lack adequate water and sanitation."
"In response -- and despite ongoing fighting and intensifying violence -- United Nations agencies, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent movement and their NGO (non-governmental organization) partners have managed to reach more people in more places every month," he said.
The council meeting was called by France, which holds the rotating council presidency for this month. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Minister William Hague attended the meeting alongside with the foreign ministers of Morocco, Togo and Colombia.
Diplomats said that the 10 other council members, including veto-wielding permanent members Russia, China and the United States, are expected to be represented by their ambassadors or charge d'affaires.
Also present at the open council meeting were foreign ministers from Syria's neighboring countries -- Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which were not the council members.
Eliasson said that what are urgently needed now is the humanitarian access to the people in need inside Syria, where more and more people are fleeing the 18-month violence into neighboring countries, and the efforts to improve security for the humanitarian workers operating in the Middle East country.
"We need the Syrian government to authorize more international NGOs to operate in the country," he said. "And UN agencies will need to expand their presence."
"At the same time, security has to be improved," he said. "Our response is shackled by obstacles -- both conflict-related and by a rise in criminality, kidnappings and attacks on vehicles."
"I urge member states to emphasize to the government and opposition groups the urgency of guaranteeing the security of aid agencies operating in areas under their control to allow for safe access to civilians and for evacuation," he said.
"There are now more than 220,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey," Eliasson said. "This weighs heavily on local authorities and communities and risks having serious destabilizing effects."
"The spill-over of conflict and violence into neighboring countries must be prevented," he said. "We urge all parties in Syria and neighboring countries to refrain from cross-border actions that will escalate tensions."